Apprenticeships in Scotland

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
December, 2016

Explore how Scotland's Modern Apprenticeships can provide the work-based learning experience you need to develop the skills and confidence to forge a successful career

You may already be aware of what an apprenticeship is and the benefits they offer - but what specific opportunities are available to those living in Scotland?

Modern Apprenticeships

With 91% of apprentices still working six months after the completion of their programme, it's fair to say that Scotland's Modern Apprenticeships have been an overwhelming success.

According to the national skills body, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), as many as 37,000 young people are already set on their journey as a Modern Apprentice, which is proving to be a viable alternative to college or university for those who've reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age (usually 16).

As the most widespread and established apprenticeship scheme in the country, there are now more than 80 types of Modern Apprenticeship currently available, in areas such as business and administration, catering, childcare, digital, information technology (IT) and retail. These programmes allow you to get paid while you work and study.

Discover the other key advantages of being a Modern Apprentice at Young Scot.

Am I eligible and how does it work?

While there's no upper age limit for a Modern Apprenticeship, if you're aged between 16 and 24 employers are eligible for assistance towards the cost of your training from SDS, which administrates apprenticeship training funding on behalf of the Scottish government. However, even if you're aged over 24, financial contributions may still be possible in some industries.

The qualifications you'll need vary between employers and apprenticeships. Generally speaking, at least three National 4 certificates (or Standard Grades at general level) are required to apply. If you have further qualifications or skills in a specialist field, this may enable you to begin at a higher level.

For those who already hold a job, you may be able to start a Modern Apprenticeship with your employer, as long as it fits in with the programme's guidelines and relates to the nature of your role.

For those with disabilities or if you have learning difficulties, additional support may be available - for instance, through Access to Work grants. This topic is covered by the SDS My World of Work website.

Will I be paid?

Apprentices will earn at least the National Minimum Wage, but you may be entitled to the National Living Wage, depending on your age. For the current hourly rates see GOV.UK or find an overview at what is an apprenticeship?

Other types of apprenticeships

Due to the positive impact of Modern Apprenticeships on the Scottish workforce, SDS has widened their scope to include two new strands at each end of the academic spectrum, ranging from fifth- and sixth-year school to degree and even Masters level.

See the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for an idea of how they compare with other Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

These programmes take the form of:

  • Foundation Apprenticeships - Taken over two years, typically from fifth year with your Highers (equivalent to AS level) and National 5 certificates (GCSE), you'll take time out from school to attend college and work for an employer. This gives you the opportunity to develop valuable skills, try out a career and may potentially lead to accelerated entry to a Modern Apprenticeship in the same subject. The experience can also make you stand out on a college or university application. While what you choose to do will depend on where you live, popular areas include business skills, engineering, financial services, social services and healthcare, and software development. This relatively new industry-recognised programme is continually expanding, with further choices to be added throughout 2017. Take a look at Apprenticeships.Scot - Foundation Apprenticeships for more information.
  • Graduate Level Apprenticeships - Rather than finding a job after completing an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, instead you'll be working on real projects with an employer and earning a wage, while spending about one day per week at university. Both work and study count towards the award, which is designed and accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in collaboration with employers. However, only certain sectors - including information and communications technology (ICT) and digital technologies, and civil engineering - offer these new apprenticeships. For example, there's the BSc Software Development in conjunction with global IT and business services firm CGI, which involves weekly attendance at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). Visit Apprenticeships.Scot - Graduate Level Apprenticeships for the latest vacancies.

What about future developments?

The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) was set up to oversee and support apprenticeships in Scotland, following recommendations from the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce.

Employers from a wide range of industries are present on the board and inform decisions on the direction of apprenticeships in Scotland, ensuring that qualifications are designed around the most useful skills for the vocation, and that the programme fully provides apprentices with a structured career path.

Find out more

  • SDS provides free expert advice to both employers looking to take on new recruits and those interested in apprenticeships via Apprenticeships.Scot.
  • Make an informed decision by assessing your career options on the organisation's sister site My World of Work.
  • To apply for an apprenticeship you can search for vacancies.